In 1976, Dr. Mohamed Yanus made a small gesture. He loaned $27 to a small community in Chittagong, Bangladesh. The money was used to pay off individual debts to loan sharks. $27 may not seem like much. For the people of Chittagong, it helped them get out from underneath crushing debt.
Dr. Yanus went on to found the Grameen Bank. Using the same small loan model, now known as microfinance, he’s been able to bring people out of poverty. The Grameen Foundation USA was founded on the same principles. In fact, Dr. Yanus is a founding member of the foundation. The group was founded in 1997 and now has the backing of the Clinton Global Initiative. They estimate that 5.5 million people have been helped with micro-credit loans through their foundation.
One of the people that Grameen Foundation USA helped is Yuli of Banda Aceh, Indonesia. Yuli lost everything in the tsunami of 2004 including her home and the small kiosk that helped support the family. Yuli and her family moved in with her parents. She attempted to set up a small kiosk to sell baked goods. While she struggled, she learned about the Grameen Foundation. She took out a $100 and was able to the buy the goods she needed to supply her business. Since the baked goods are made by women int he same village, everyone benefits. She sees a day when the business will support her family once again.
Micro-credit loans almost always go to women. Repayment is at around 95% despite the fact that most of the debtors cannot provide proof of ability to repay. They have nothing to offer as collateral. Yet, they do repay those loans and many succeed in pulling themselves out of poverty.